The Evil English

nine lives 2002 paris hilton

NINE LIVES

1.5 Stars  2002/18/82m

“Their number is up.”

Director/Writer: Andrew Green / Cast: James Nicolle, Amelia Warner, Paris Hilton, James Schlesinger, Patrick Kennedy, Ben Peyton, Vivienne Harvey, Rosie Fellner, Lex Shrapnel.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Tim wouldn’t turn into a psycho killer over a bobble hat!”


I don’t really do patriotism. In fact, given my nation’s rather humiliating stance when it comes to tourism, football hooliganism, and more recently this Brexit idiocy, I’ve taken to adopting a foreign accent rather than be identified as English. SPOILERS follow.

Anyway, this slack possession-slasher gathers nine ex-public school friends at a remote Scottish mansion for a birthday celebration and soon fall victim to an English-hating spirit, who possesses members of the group to kill one another.

Suffice to say, without Paris Hilton’s involvement – she stretches herself to play a shallow American valley-girl – it would likely never have seen the light of day at all. The spirit is clearly so focused, it kills her first!?

Although proceedings start off okay, with some creepy ghost action – rapping noises coming from an empty hall etc – once the first murder is discovered, things fall apart quicker than a Paris Hilton album. And I once listened to one of those.

Admit it, you WANT them to die gruesomely.

Admit it, you WANT them to die gruesomely.

If you thought Hilton’s acting chops were limited, she’s Oscar worthy when compared to some of her co-stars, who encompass the combined talent of a GCSE drama class. Our heroine, Laura, is unsympathetic, dumb, and downright annoying. It is she who suggests people split up, and who also almost clairvoyantly pinpoints what is going on without a shred of evidence beyond a throwaway conversation she had about existentialism. Nine Lives shouldn’t meddle in such affairs.

Notable only for switching to a final boy once Laura turns the knife on herself to end the terror (yay!). The boy survives because he’s Scottish! Yeah. I know.

The spirit never puts in an appearance, but still gets a credit and by the time you make it to the credits – if you do – you’ll be wanting to gouge your own eyes out.

Blurb-of-interest: We all remember Paris in House of Wax a few years after this tripe.

The goings-on at this camp would scare Jason away

sleepaway camp 1983

SLEEPAWAY CAMP

3 Stars  1983/18/84m

“You won’t be coming home.”

A.k.a. Nightmare Vacation (original UK release)

Director/Writer: Robert Hiltzik / Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Christopher Collet, Paul DeAngelo, Mike Kellin, Karen Fields, Katherine Kamhi, John E. Dunn, Desiree Gould, Susan Glaze, Owen Hughes, Robert Earl Jones.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “She’s a carpenter’s dream – flat as a board and needs a good screw!”


Queer goings-on abound in this strange little cult classic with an ending so iconically deranged it completely overshadows the shortcomings of the preceding 82 minutes. Spoilers follow.

A man and his two kids are sailing on a lake when an out of control ski-boat plows into them, killing father and child. This scene sets up a few of Sleepaway Camp‘s weirdnesses: Overlong shots, Noo-Yawk accents, and over-acting. Check out the waterskier girl’s caterwauling moment.

sleepaway camp 1983

“OHMYGOD somebody PLEASE help the people PLEASE!”

Eight years later (yay! not five or ten!) the surviving sibling Angela and her cousin Ricky are sent off to Camp Arawak for the summer by Ricky’s kooky mother. She, like ski-girl, is something to behold, but a classic character nonetheless. Ricky has been before and happily reintegrates with old friends – bar sour-faced camp bitch Judy – but Angela barely says a word (in fact she doesn’t speak until 31 minutes in) and finds it hard to fit in.

Aunt Martha sleepaway camp 1983

“‘Return to Sleepaway Camp’? No, that wouldn’t do at all.”

It doesn’t help that the campers of Arawak are about 23% assholes who rejoice in mocking Angela one way or another. She’s almost raped by the pedophiley cook, waterbombed by the macho-swagger boys, thrown in the lake by her nasty dorm counsellor, and generally tormented verbally by most of the others.

So who is behind the series of bizarre accidents that begin to plague the camp? Said cook is scalded by a huge vat of boiling water; a boy is drowned beneath a canoe; another has his bathroom break interrupted by a wasp’s nest being thrown through the window… Later there’s death by curling-tongs amidst the more standard knife-in-the-back and arrow-in-the-neck.

sleepaway camp 1983

sleepaway camp 1983

The camp owner wants to keep it all under wraps and writes the first few fatalities off as accidents, much to the chagrin of his staff, but begins to suspect Ricky as the deaths continue. Why the whole place wasn’t closed after the first death is a real mystery.

Anyway, things culminate with a bit of a spree and the killer’s identity is revealed in the unforgettable final few frames, partnered nicely with a flashback to fill in the blanks. Most review books give it away and if you, like me, happened to see the sequels first, well then all is ruined.

Sleepaway Camp is a bit of a one-trick pony in this sense. It’s a bit of a chore of a film to reach the famed ending, peppered with some really strange elements and moments that don’t make a whole lot of sense, giving the impression that Hiltzik was so focused on his reveal that he back-pedalled a bit to fatten up his picture with a few extra bodies (when and why are the kids who go on the camping trip hacked up?), the strange flashback of two men embracing in bed together, which is a strange thing to be crowbarred in, especially in the less-than-tolerant early 80s.

sleepaway camp 1983 gay

Is Sleepaway Camp a gay movie? -shrug- I honestly don’t know where I stand with it. There’s nothing particularly pro or anti-gay going on. That the killer turns out to be a reluctant transgender teenager and possibly had a gay dad seems a bit of a lazy ‘queer things are deadly’ resolve, but the fact the film ends as soon as we’re informed what’s been going on, there’s thankfully nobody around to go “Well, yes, all non-cisgender people are homicidal killers, aren’t they?” Add to this the errant homoeroticism of many-a-boy in short-shorts that leave little to the imagination, crop-tops, and going skinny dipping together and, well, hmmm…

sleepaway camp 1983 fashion

The Sleepaway Camp Fashion Show

sleepaway camp 1983

Oh…

sleepaway camp 1983

OH.

The scattergun effect of Sleepaway Camp is its biggest foe. Who is the main character here? The crowded supporting cast are largely indistinguishable from one another, though that may accurately reflect life at camp with so many groups and cliques. Victims are sorted pretty much by who is nasty to Angela, so the nice counsellors and campers are (mostly) spared.

There’s still mucho 80s goodness (read: badness) to lap up, from the horrific fashion outings, Judy’s t-shirt with her own name on it, Meg spelling out her monosyllabic name in case anyone was in doubt, and Ricky’s unrelenting stream of profanities: Cocksucker, fucking pussies, chickenshit, asshole etc. The kid could work at any branch of Sports Direct.

And also the many stares of Angela*:

the many stares of Angela sleepaway camp 1983

I can’t ever seem to settle on an opinion on this film, whereas the 1988 sequels are a much easier pill to gulp down. It has enough decent content to entertain, with some ambitious photography here and there, and a good idea at its core. Were the world not so politically correct now, I’d nominate this as a prime candidate for a remake… but you know that final shot would never be permitted!

*Yes, I asked Stacie Ponder’s permission to re-use this term.

Blurbs-of-interest: Rose, Tiersten, and DeAngelo all came back twenty years later for Return to Sleepaway Camp; Rose was later in fellow summer camp slasher Camp Dread; Katherine Kamhi was a sub-final girl in Silent Madness; Mike Kellin was also in Just Before Dawn.

Music to Murder Teens By

Slasher films don’t often come with killer soundtracks – budgetary concerns – but there are some really awesome scores around.

Here are my favourite choons I’ve found thanks to this lovely genre:

White Sister: April – from Killer Party (1986)

Typical 80s glam rock: Melody up front, big hair, lots of synth.

*

SoHo: Whisper to a Scream – from Scream (1996)

One of the few slasher films with its own soundtrack album. This awesome tune (a cover of a much less interesting 1983 original by The Icicle Works) plays over the end credits. Sure, it’s totally 90s, but that guitar solo and electro-beats are amazing.

*

Shinedown: Devour – from The Final Destination (2009)

What genre is this? Emo-rock? Who cares, love the growl of the singer’s voice and the relentless percussion. I like this one loud on road trips.

*

Vixtrola: Gunboat – from Darkness Falls (2003)

More heavy guitars and growly angst, and possibly the best aspect of the film from which it came!

*

Benjamin Bates: Two Flies – from Killer Movie (2008)

Another better-than-the-film track. Lyrically it’s a tad repetitive but I like the effects going on here.

*

Dokken: Dream Warriors – from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987)

A classic spandex rock classic from German band Dokken. The fact Freddy is defeated by the lead singer’s high-pitched wailings is just sensational.

*

Pseudo Echo: His Eyes – from Friday the 13th Part V (1985)

This is the song Violet is robot-dancing to before she’s done away with. I’m not normally a fan of this new-wave sound, but this song has become awesomely naff over 30 years of exposure.

*

Syreeta: Happy Birthday to Me – from Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Creepy-voiced Syreeta chirps her way through this unsettling original, which benefits from its minimalism. That clarinet? -shudder-

*

Divinyls: Back to the Wall – from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988)

The film’s evident MTV-leanings made for a good soundtrack, from which this was my favourite, with great opening lyrics: “We’re living in desperate times, these are desperate times my friend.” Divinyls were best known for their 1990 hit I Touch Myself. The lead singer sadly died a few years ago.

*

Alice Cooper: Teenage Frankenstein & He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask) – from Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)

The link between slasher films and (what was then deemed to be) heavy metal was put to good use in Jason Lives with Alice Cooper’s originals for the soundtrack. Lyrics about full moons, lovers lake etc just spell out everything that is Friday.

Fill up with fear

body bags 1993THE GAS STATION

4 Stars  1993/18/23m

A.k.a. Body Bags (segment 1)

Director: John Carpenter / Writers: Billy Brown & Dan Angel / Cast: Alex Datcher, Robert Carradine, David Naughton, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi.

Body Count: 3


Probably about as close as we’ll ever get to seeing John Carpenter direct another slasher film, The Gas Station was the first of three segments to his 1993 anthology Body Bags (the other two concerned Stacy Keach having a bad hair life, and something about Mark Hamill’s eye).

Alex Datcher is perfect as Anne, a college girl starting her first nightshift as the cashier at a Haddonfield (!) gas station, not far from the stomping ground of an at-large serial killer.

Wes Craven is her first customer, a creepy old dude looking for chips, followed soon by a flirtatious handsome guy, then a homeless fellow after the restroom key, a playful couple, and finally silence… but then she spots the car on the mount in the garage going up and down by itself.

At 23 minutes, this is a slasher flick on speed, meta’d right down to a quarter of the usual length, and Anne is soon running and screaming: Windows are bashed in, bodies fall out of lockers… Pretty much everything that happened to Jamie Lee Curtis in the last act of Halloween happens here.

the gas station 1993 john carpenter

The casting of a black actress as the final girl is refreshing against Carpenter’s retread, featuring some of the same shot composition, and although we don’t get much time with her, we’re quick to support Anne through her ordeal.

It couldn’t be a feature length outing, but it’s nice that Carpenter stopped by to fill up on some stalking goodness.

Blurbs-of-interest: George Buck Flower was also in Berserker and Cheerleader Camp; Sam Raimi (playing a corpse) also acted in Intruder.

 

Actually it -is- human, and it doesn’t really use the axe a lot – so just run away

the prey 1980

THE PREY

2 Stars  1980/18/92M

“It’s not human… and it’s got an axe!”

Director/Writer: Edwin Scott Brown / Writer: Summer Brown / Cast: Debbie Thureson, Steve Bond, Lori Lethin, Robert Wald, Gayle Gannes, Philip Wenckus, Jackson Bostwick, Jackie Coogan, Connie Hunter, Ted Hayden, Garry Goodrow, Carel Struycken.

Body Count: 8


Shot anytime between 1978 and its eventual release in 1984, it’s difficult to call this just another Friday the 13th rip-off if it possibly came before that.

Either way, The Prey follows six ‘teenagers’ on a camping trip deep into the forest where some bad shit went down years earlier, in this instance a huge fire that burnt a load of gypsies to ash.

Naturally, one of them survived and it is he who hunts the group. The freakishly tall loon (played by the original Lurch from The Addams Family) throttles, crushes, and throws his victims to their dull, bloodless demises (the tagline is not to be believed) after mucho campfire and nature footage.

the prey 1980

Notable for its rather grim ending, The Prey isn’t terrible, just a bit primitive in its approach, which actually complements the campfire-tale quality of it all and has a likeable final girl in Thureson. It plays kinda like a very early demo of Wrong Turn.

Most versions clock in at around 80 minutes, but lucky Europe, we got those extra 12 minutes of trees n’ shit.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lori Lethin was later in both Bloody Birthday and Return to Horror High.

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